• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

City Board Approves Public Records Amendment and Compensation Plan

ByChad J. Johnson

Oct 25, 2022

October 25—The Abilene City Commission dealt with two items of the agenda at its regular meeting yesterday afternoon. The two items on the agenda were the city’s open public records amending code ordinance and the city’s 2023 compensation plan.

To begin the meeting, the commission approved an ordinance to amend the city’s code on open public records. The adopted ordinance is a modified version of the sample ordinance created by the League of Kansas Municipalities. The fees remain the same. Changes to the passed ordinance include designating the city clerk as freedom of information officer and appointing the official records custodian positions to the city clerk, chief financial officer, chief the police, the fire chief and the clerk of the municipal court.

The commission then approved the city’s 2023 compensation plan in a 4-1 vote. City staff elected to provide a 7.18% cost-of-living adjustment to staff salaries based on the Consumer Price Index for the Midwest region, according to the document. agenda. The 7.18% COLA is in the 2023 city budget, which was approved at the August 22 regular meeting.

Prior to approval, John Kollhoff, City Commissioner, made a short presentation. He began by distributing physical copies of statistics collected by him and an associate. The statistics were for COLA towns of similar size to Abilene and surrounding communities. Kollhoff said he found few towns similar in size to Abilene. He also said his statement that city staff received a 10% pay raise during the Oct. 17 study session was incorrect. Only employees of the Abilene Fire Department and Abilene Police Department received a 10% raise. Those employees, however, represent a significant number of city employees, Kollhoff said. He then suggested that the commission defer the item to the next meeting due to his own incomplete statistical research and because he was unable to receive city personnel records prior to the current meeting.

“Obviously we want everyone to be taken care of on the city side, but the fact is that every dollar that goes into the pocket of a city employee has to be earned by someone who owns a home or commercial property in Abilene,” Kollhoff said. said.

Kollhoff suggested, as he has in previous meetings, that a 5% COLA is a fair raise, based on his own opinion and the statistics he provided.

“Everything we do potentially hurts taxpayers, whether it’s raising wages, ball diamonds, whatever,” said Dee Marshall, the city’s mayor. “It all has an effect.”

The committee then defeated a motion to table the compensation plan item at the next meeting in a 3-2 vote. Marshall and City Commissioners Wendy Miller and Brandon Rein voted no.

Trevor Witt, the city’s vice mayor, then commented. Witt said in his earlier comments that he supported an increase, but isn’t sure 7.18% is the correct percentage. He also reaffirmed that the city has been living in a period anomaly for the past two years. Some of the comments and messages he received communicate concerns about the long-term implications of such a high COLA. He will be “very hesitant” to vote to raise wages in the next two years. He said he would like to see the rest of the information Kollhoff has and said he would gather.

The commission then voted 4-1 to approve the compensation plan. Kollhoff voted no.

Ron Marsh, City Manager, then presented a report from the City Manager. The Department of Public Works has received the operating license for Well 23 from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The department will be testing the well systems later this week. The city has received the preliminary audit from the auditors and staff are presenting the audit to the commission in November. Work on the Abilene Senior Center floor has begun.

The Abilene City Commission will not be holding a town meeting on October 31. Their next meeting will be a study session on November 7 at 4 p.m.